Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises on Saturday congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ushering the African Union into the G20. Mittal has been leading efforts, in the build up to the G20 Summit, in increasing engagement with Africa.
As the Chair of the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration, he noted that a continent of 1.2 billion people can’t be left behind.
One of the major challenges that he identified for Africa was the debt burden. Arguing for a debt ‘reset’ for Africa, he said that the time is now for the world to debate on writing off the loans.
In an exclusive conservation with CNBC-TV18, he cited examples of countries like Zambia, with massive copper deposits, which are facing huge debt burden. He also noted that even oil rich countries like Gabon, are debt-trapped. He argued that the large debt burden cast on African nations by China, has led to the continent being deprived of continuous income to build their own infrastructure.
In this context he also clarified that Africa continues to offer vast potential for growth – much like how India was 15-20 years back. He assured that even Aritel was witnessing annual growth of 20 percent in its African operations. He assured that he was bullish on Africa and would continue to invest. One concern, he highlighted was the rapid currency depreciation and that it was a source of great worry.
He also spoke on how the Africa could benefit using India’s model of Digital Public Infra. He argued that in the absence of physical infrastructure, DPI can be used to bridge the gap. He cited the example of Nigeria considering that deploying India’s Digital Stack. He reasoned that if Africa countries adopt the DPI, it will help achieve financial inclusion and will help extend government services. The only catch was, as per Sunil Bharti Mittal, that a lot more work was needed in Africa to develop and deploy robust telecom networks.
“Digital connectivity is the foundation on which DPI rests,” he told CNBC-TV18.
He also noted that taking minerals out of the country is not helping the continent.
Sunil Mittal said that Africa needs more manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem with a renewed focus on agriculture. On agriculture, he cited how 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated land was in Africa and that 10 percent of this uncultivated land would be enough to feed the world. CNBCTV18